MavFORENSICS: What is takes to become a nationally-ranked team

Photo courtesy of DomVisuals.
Junior Abbie Perry gives insight to MavFORENSICS’ national success and the team’s “underdog” status.

Jessica Wade
Editor in Chief

The University of Nebraska Omaha’s forensics team, MavFORENSICS, has a history of success. The team recently took home the title of Nebraska State Champions for the fourth year in a row, and placed in the top 10 nationally for the ninth time.

It takes a lot to maintain a nationally-ranked program, and MavFORENSICS is a bit of an underdog when competing against other bigger, better-funded programs.

Junior Abbie Perry took four events to state, placing first in persuasion, which qualified her for the oldest speaking competition in North American history, the Interstate Oratorical Association’s national tournament.

Even with 17 members, the most competitors in recent history according to Perry, MavFORENSICS is still comparatively small. Teams ranking in the top five nationally have 30 to 40 members, and some of the biggest budgets in the country.

Perry said that unlike many other teams, MavFORENSICS pays for their own food at tournaments, spends long hours in a van to avoid the cost of flying and doesn’t have scholarships available to team members.

“None of us on the team are on scholarship, so the reason that those on the MavFORENSICS team do so well, we think, is because we’re all there because we want to be, not because we have to be,” Perry said.

Even though they don’t have the budget of other nationally-ranked teams, Perry said that MavFORENSICS is a huge draw to out-of-state students.

“I’m the only person on the team who grew up in Omaha. Everyone else is from California, Florida, Minnesota… so people come to Omaha to be on this team because we have so much pride in what we do and that is seen nation-wide,” Perry said.

A nationally-ranked team doesn’t develop overnight. MavFORENSICS’ success starts with talented team members, and those talented team members bring life to award-winning performances.

Perry said that the beginning of the process starts with research.

”You want to have the best topic, so you research everywhere. Unique websites like Guardian, Slate, and Jezebel, to find issues that are happening in the world that people might not think about, that would make you think ‘Oh, I had no idea that was happening.’”

What comes next is an extensive process that involves outlining the speech, writing it, working with coaches to revise and, finally, perfecting it.

“Once the speech is memorized, I sign up for coaching appointments,” Perry said. “I perform for anyone on the coaching staff and they just give me advice on how to say something in a better way, or how to hit emotion.”

The week before a big tournament, Perry runs her speech every day, and typically attends a coaching session.

“So that’s five hours per week minimum, and that’s not even necessarily revising my speech or making changes to it; it’s solely just prepping my speech so that I get it down and don’t have a memory lapse in front of a bunch of people because that would be atrocious,” Perry said.

Perry estimates that from August to April she devotes hundreds of hours to MavFORENSICS.

Even with all the hard work and time dedication, Perry said being a part of the team has been an incredible experience.

“Being on the MavFORENSICS team has taught me so much because not only do our coaches want to make us better competitors and better performers, but they also care about us in life and how we are doing. Having that mentorship from my coaches has been really helpful because they make sure we are doing well academically and with our mental health and just all around they want to make that we’re doing okay.”

Perry also said that the skills she is learning while competing will serve her beyond college.

“Public speaking is so important, it’s something people have to do on a daily basis, whether it’s a presentation at school or a job interview,” Perry said. “Forensics is like a full-time job, but there are also people on the team who have full-time jobs and are going to school full-time, so really time management and balance are huge things that I take away from being on the team.”